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Luke 15:1-10

“Lost and Found”

I want to start with something funny: One humorist said: “Life is unfair. I lost my car keys at a ball game and never found them. I lost my sunglasses at the beach and never found them. I lost my socks in the washing machine and never found them. I lost three pounds on a diet, but I found them and five more.”

Today, I want to talk about “lost and found.”  We have often “lost” things-that is easy to do, but “finding” does not happen so easily. After we had a joint service at St. Croix Falls Church in June, I found a lost pair of eyeglasses, but no one asked for them. They are still at SCF church. After the service at Atlas Park, one parishioner lost her lawn chair. We emailed out inquiring if anyone had seen it, but she still couldn’t find it. Perhaps, the eyeglass or chair might be replaced, and eventually, they may give up on them being found. However, if you lost a loved one, perhaps your precious child, it would be painful, and you would never give up searching for them. If you eventually found your lost loved one, you would most likely give them your love and care even more than before.

I was my mother’s lost child. Going back to my childhood, I was once lost in a marketplace. I lost my mother among many people. I kept walking to look for my mom, crying among many people for half a day. Someone found me and brought me to a room in the police station where they bring lost children. I thought I would never see my mom again. I felt scared. But she found me. I still remember being scared of being lost and the joy and relief of that reunion once found by my family. I can’t imagine how my mother felt after losing me. My mother gave me loving care more than she did before. However, that experience brought me trauma being map blind. I’m still afraid when I plan to go far. But the good thing is I have GPS.

In today’s scripture we read two stories of the lost sheep and the lost coin. These stores Jesus offers are to respond to the grumbling Pharisees and the scribes. They didn’t like Jesus, who “welcomes sinners and eats with them.” They thought that if Jesus was a good teacher, he should be with the Pharisees and scribes rather than with the sinners. They believed that they were righteous people who were reserved in heaven. Jesus told them that these parable stories are not a judgment of the grumblers but good news to them. “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” These stories are about the divine mercy of God and the unbounded joy of God when the lost are found. The issue is, however, who the lost is in the text.

Let’s catch up on why Jesus was with all the tax collectors and sinners. As we talked about the cost of being of Jesus’ disciples last Sunday, Jesus explained to many people who followed him that if they wanted to be his disciples, they should love God more than their family. And, he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” And then, now, “all the tax collectors and sinners were coming near to listen to him.” The Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.” Who were the sinners? The sinners they judged were the sick, the poor, the tax collectors, and the outsiders socially, economically, and politically. You may be curious about why the tax collectors were treated as sinners by Israelite society. They were rich, but outsiders. They collected taxes for Rome and stole some parts of them for their wealth. Furthermore, they collected more than the Roman government asked in order for them to steal it. Therefore, the Pharisees and religious leaders regarded them as sinners. They thought they were the only righteous and even judged Jesus, the Son of God.

Again, the poor, the sick, and the outsiders came to Jesus to listen to him and be his disciples, but the religious leaders judged them. These two stories have an obvious common point: the compassionate concern of a searching God. The shepherd has a risk of temporarily abandoning the ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness and goes looking for one sheep out of one hundred. For the shepherd, a hundred sheep are more important than one sheep. But, even though he risks losing ninety-nine, he chooses to look for the lost one. Why? The lost ones can’t find a way by himself. The lost one is in need. The lost one looks for a helper.

The woman who lost a coin is described as lighting a lamp and taking a broom in hand in her attempt to recover her missing coin. Neither the shepherd nor the woman has a moment’s hesitation as to what to do. Neither gave up the search until the sheep/coin was found. Such searching gives value to those being sought. They become treasured and significant because they are not left for lost, but are made the objects of divine concern. Furthermore, the shepherd and the woman overcome the risk and the difficulties of their search. And they call their friends and neighbors to come to a party. It perhaps spends costs more than one sheep or one coin to celebrate. The reason they do so is that we may find guidance in the conclusion of these stories. The narrator makes a point of speaking of the heavenly joy “over one sinner who repents” (15:7, 10) as the conclusion of these stories. However, we know that sheep and coin cannot repent. What’s the parable for?

Let’s see in the scripture again. Jesus begins, “which one of you, having a hundred sheep…?” (15:4). They are asked to reflect on their own experiences of losing a valuable thing, of the search, and of the delight in finding it. By association, they are invited to share with God and the angelic host in the celebration over the reclaiming of a lost sinner. Here is the good news. God is searching for a lost one beyond our thoughts. God never gives up no matter who you are.

Again, who are the lost? From the leaders’ perspective, it is the sinners. If it is so, the leaders were invited to the celebration table. It is clear if you see the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). When the lost son comes back home, the father has a celebrated party with many people. But the older son refuses to join the party. For sure, the shepherd and woman imply to God who looks for the lost ones. What about your position if you reflect on your spiritual Life? We might think that we are not like sinners. We might think that God is searching for the lost one, who is out of one hundred. We might think that we are staying in the group of ninety-nine as the Pharisees and the scribes thought of themselves. However, Jesus tells them, “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (5:32). And he says about the heavenly joy “over one sinner who repents” (15:7, 10). Whether you think you are the lost one or the one abiding in God, God is searching for us. The scripture says, “There is no one righteous under sin, not even one; whether Jews or gentile (Romans 3:9-10).

Here is the good news. We all are sinners, lost ones from God, but God never gives up on us until God finds us. Even God made His Only Son sacrifice to look for us. Let’s repent and return to God. And then, let’s join his invitation for searching for lost ones. Think of our faith family. We have lost a lot. We feel pain. And God may feel more painful for us. It is time to join God’s divine search for the lost ones. Remember, the grace of God is endless. Let us join God in searching for the lost so we may experience the heavenly joy. Thanks be to God, Amen!